In a first for the multi-mission KC-390 military transport, Embraer invited members of the media for a flight in the broad-shouldered twinjet on the eve of the Paris Air Show.
After passing through several layers of high security, members of the media were escorted to the KC-390 parked on a ramp accessible to the Le Bourget taxiways. The KC-390’s big cargo ramp was stowed, so we climbed on via the airstair door and strapped in to sideways-facing troop seats mounted in the center of the 169-cubic-meter (5,970-cu-ft) cargo hold.
During the takeoff, the KC-390’s 31,330-pound thrust IAE V2500 engines pushed us sideways as the nimble jet accelerated quickly, then leaped into the sky. After climbing above the French countryside, we were able to unstrap and explore the airplane, including a brief visit to the flight deck. The sidestick-controlled fly-by-wire flight control system maximizes cockpit space, and gives pilots an uncluttered view of the large displays in the Rockwell Collins Pro Line Fusion avionics.
This KC-390 is the second prototype flying in the flight test program. First delivery to the Brazilian air force, the launch customer, is scheduled for 2018. Two KC-390s are set to be delivered in 2018, and the air force has ordered 28 so far.
On June 16, during exercises with the Brazilian army, tests were conducted on free-fall and static-line paratroop jumps and stability during heavy cargo drops from the ramp, which can remain open to 250 knots. Dry aerial refueling tests with the KC-390’s Cobham 900E-series wing air-refueling pod were done earlier this year using F-5 fighters. Crosswind and tailwind tests were conducted in Punte Arenas and Rio Gallegos, Argentina. The full flight envelope is now open to the maximum 36,000 feet and Mach 0.80 (470 knots), with high-speed flutter tests completed. Flights with ice shapes have begun, and the KC-390 will be flown into real icing conditions later this year.
To prepare for certification of the cargo and ramp system, Embraer technicians built a full-scale test rig that can be pitched and tilted to simulate airborne maneuvering. The cargo floor features flip-over pallet roller fixtures and forty-four 25,000-pound and one hundred forty-five 10,000-pound load hooks. Although the KC-390 has three 3,000-psi hydraulic systems, the ramp can also be moved with a manual backup pump. Asked how many times the handle must be pumped to open or close the ramp, loadmaster instructor Magno Ney said, “A lot.” He added that the flip-over rollers and other features of the cargo system allow faster loading using just one person compared to older cargo aircraft.
“There are no big issues [with the final stages of the certification program],” said Jackson Schneider, president of Embraer Defense and Security.